The 30th of November 2021 will be a date marked in Barbados’ history books, as the country transitions into a republic. It was a significant moment for the former British colony, which had kept Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as its queen since its independence in the sixties. As the Barbadian flag flies over a republic for the first time, we take a look at some of the most recent countries to make the same move.
Since midnight of the 29th of November 2021 it is, of course, Barbados that is the newest addition to the world’s roster of republics. Barbados was formerly part of the British Empire, first being landed on by the English in 1625. It declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, electing Errol Barrow as its first Prime Minister. Barbados stayed in the British Commonwealth after independence, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Then, in September 2020, the government of Barbados announced plans to become a republic by the 30th of November 2021, the 55th anniversary of the island’s independence. Sandra Mason, the last Governor General of Barbados, is now serving as the country’s first president.
2 South Sudan
The world’s second oldest republic is also its newest country. Founded in 2011, the Republic of South Sudan was created when it declared independence from the Republic of Sudan. The East African country of Sudan had been occupied by Egypt until 1956, when independence was declared. This was a time of great unrest, as the Sudanese civil war had broken out a year earlier and would continue until 1972, when the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was formed. A second civil war ignited in 1983 and lasted until 2005, making it one of the longest civil wars in history. Six years after it ended, the Republic of South Sudan was formally created.
In 2008 was the declaration of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The state of Nepal was previously the world’s only Hindu kingdom, being ruled by the Rana dynasty since 1846. The Rana’s were autocrats, meaning the monarch had absolute power. Pro-democracy movements in Nepal began to pick up steam in the 1940s and various attempts were made at parliamentary democracy until 1972, when the popular People’s Movement finally saw the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. Following a peaceful revolution in 2006, the country saw great reform, and the monarchy was officially removed in 2008.
Also in 2008, this republic in the Balkans caused controversy when it declared itself, as the country it had formerly been attached to did not recognise its independence. Kosovo made up a South-west portion of Serbia before it split off by itself, a move the Serbian government still disputes. Both Kosovo and Serbia had previously formed part of the larger country of Serbia and Montenegro (more on that later), which itself had been a part of Yugoslavia. Although only 97 of the 193 UN member states have granted Kosovo diplomatic recognition, its other neighbours, Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia all quickly accepted its existence within the year.
The current Republic of Serbia itself is less than twenty years old, being founded in 2006. Prior to this, Serbia (with Kosovo included) had been part of a political union with its neighbour, known as the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Before February 2003, the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or simply FR Yugoslavia. This quick succession of name changes demonstrates the political instability of the Balkan region at the beginning of the 21st century, a legacy of the brutal wars of the nineties and the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The other half of the old State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, the Republic of Montenegro declared it was leaving the union in 2006 after holding a referendum on the issue. The referendum passed in favour of separation from the union by 55.5%. Somewhat confusingly to a person new to the history of former Yugoslavia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the old name for the state union) had been made up of the Republic of Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia. However, 2006 was the first time the Republic of Montenegro was a sovereign state in over eighty years.
Taking us away from the Balkans, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste declared itself officially in 2002. Before its independence the country, which is situated on the eastern half of the island of Timor, was ruled first under the Portuguese Empire and then by Indonesia. The capital city, Dili, was settled by the Portuguese in 1769, and they continued to rule until 1975. This was the year that revolutionary groups carried out a coup and issued a statement of independence. The Portuguese had more or less abandoned the island in 1974 anyway, but nearby Indonesia reacted to the news by invading. In 1999, Indonesian occupation ended with a UN-sponsored independence referendum.
8 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic was created on the 1st of January 1993. Previously it had been part of the state of Czechoslovakia, a republic created in 1918 after the breakdown of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As part of the old empire the region had been known as Bohemia, a kingdom that was eventually absorbed fully by the Austrian Hapsburg rulers in 1620. The Republic of Czechoslovakia was one of the first countries to be invaded by Nazi Germany, and after the Second World War it became a communist state of the Eastern European bloc. Independence was declared after the peaceful Velvet Revolution in 1989, which then allowed for the separation of 1993.
Also a former part of Czechoslovakia and the Austro-Hungarian empire Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic, shares its founding date with the Czech Republic. In 1000 AD, the land that is now Slovakia was taken by the Hungarians after the breakdown of the Great Moravian Empire. Until the 20th century the region largely remained under Hungarian rule, with varying levels of political freedom. The Slovak people had been campaigning for independence since the late 19th century, and eventually saw their chance to leave the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. When the war ended, they became a part of Czechoslovakia. The Slovak Republic was peacefully declared in 1993 after the fall of communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
An island nation in the beautiful Indian Ocean, the Republic of Mauritius was declared on the 12th of March 1992. Before Barbados, it was the most recent country to remove Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as its head of state. Mauritius was first recorded by Arab sailors in 975 AD, and was also visited by the Portuguese. The Dutch and the French then both held the island for a period of about 100 years each. Finally, the British Empire seized it in 1810 and turned it into a plantation colony. The British imported labourers from India during this period, and today 67% of the population are of Indian descent, with another 20% descended from African slaves taken by the French. The country declared independence in 1968, before becoming a republic twenty-four years later.
This republic in the west Pacific is made up of over 300 tiny islands. The Republic of Palau came into being forty years ago in 1981, making it the oldest entry on this list. These islands were first inhabited by people of the Philippines and Indonesia in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC, before being invaded and ruled by various colonial western powers. Throughout the early 18th century, several attempts were made to reach the islands from the Spanish Philippines. Eventually Palau would be made part of the Spanish Empire, before being sold to Germany in 1899. During World War II, Japan had possession of the islands until the US captured them in 1944. The US continued to manage Palau until independence, which came after a vote held in 1978.
These are 11 of the newest republics in the world but, as always, the map of the globe is constantly changing. Who knows which countries may be joining this list in the future…